VICTIMISATION, T. BREED – NETWORK RAIL OPERATIONS


Our Ref BR5/4/4
11th August 2021

TO ALL SIGNALLERS, SSMs AND MOMs ON WEST COAST SOUTH

Dear Colleague

VICTIMISATION, T. BREED – NETWORK RAIL OPERATIONS

Further to my letter of 9th August 2021, you will have seen my personal message to you and your colleagues outlining why we believe you should vote for industrial action in support of longstanding rep and Branch Secretary Tim Breed. This can be viewed again below:

 

Brother Breed has provided us with information giving his detailed response to communications put round by Network Rail. Whilst we have no desire to get into a continuous back and forth on this, I feel it is important that members hear Brother Breed’s view on what has happened in his own words.

“I removed a handrail off a small flight of two steps and replaced with two sets of drawers to create a new wider walkway as a one-way system for social distancing. That is it regarding removing anything.

I created partitions between workstations using sets of draws about 3ft high. I printed and laminated signs to direct people. Nobody had seen any risk assessment for Covid before I took these actions. It only came to light at the investigation. The risk assessment had no involvement with the RMT health and safety rep and hadn't been signed by him.

No electrical equipment was touched.

I had a draft email all typed out to management advising them why and what I had done but didn't hit the send button.

The reasons I took these actions was because Stoke is a 1960's building with no room for social distancing. Staff had been repeatedly warned about the need for social distancing in line with Network Rail Covid policy.

Members need to be aware that this was right at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown dealing with a situation that nobody had any experience of before.

I had 8 charges laid against me at investigation most of which were health and safety related. At the disciplinary hearing I was charged with only 4 again most being health and safety related. The outcome of the disciplinary was ALL CHARGES WITHDRAWN to be replaced with a new charge of failing to communicate with my manager.

I appealed on the grounds of procedural irregularity, misinterpretation of the facts and over harsh punishment.

Procedural irregularity because the whole case should have been dealt with by a fair culture safety investigation and wasn't.
Misinterpretation of the facts because they had conveniently lost the draft email that I had supplied a hard copy of and never took it into account.
Over harsh punishment because if they had applied their own fair culture policy using the flow chart I would not have been disciplined.

I supplied evidence of a LOM and SSM at Manchester ROC moving a printer to create social distancing without S&T permission which shut a safety critical workstation down with no disciplinary action.

I supplied evidence of a close call I raised where S&T staff had propped all fire doors open to the relay room below us running extension leads across the floor breaching all kinds of regulations with no disciplinary action taken.

I supplied evidence where a member of staff had brought used car engine oil into work and dumped in a skip which leaked all across the SCC car park creating a massive slipping hazard and thousands of pounds cleanup operation as it entered the drains with no disciplinary action.

I uncovered lie after lie after lie from staff and management with withheld evidence in my favour and signed notes from my suspension meeting by a manager who wasn't even there. This is why all charges were dropped to be replaced by a new charge so they could still get me for something to avoid paying me any money that I'd lost. They then proceeded to keep me out of the workplace for nearly 12 months with no welfare calls. Only getting in touch when receiving a letter of the General Secretary Mick Cash.

They made 4 recommendations at the appeal outcome which were

This should have been dealt with through the fair culture process
The charges were not clearly stated
Welfare calls should have been made throughout.
Mediation should have been attempted.

So they admitted that they had broken their own procedures in their dealings with me. THIS is why it's victimisation of a trade union rep.”

As outlined above Brother Breed was seeking to ensure health and safety standards in the workplace were effective in order to fend off the Covid 19 virus and protect himself and his colleagues at the very earliest stages of the Pandemic. The company’s response has been to discipline him unfairly and harshly which we believe is due to his trade union activities. They admitted at his appeal they should have used the Fair Culture Process in his case which if used would not have seen him disciplined at all. Despite this admission Network Rail continue to refuse to exonerate him from his disciplinary punishment which we believe is a clear indication that they have taken the opportunity to victimise one of our longest serving and most effective reps.

In addition, our National Operations Council representative reports that an all reps meeting is taking place but he has effectively been told he is subject to a gagging order in terms of discussing the issues of the dispute. He has been told that he is only allowed to talk about the circumstances of Brother Breed’s situation if he is off duty and not on Network Rail premises. This is just over the top and completely unnecessary.

I hope the above sheds further light on this appalling situation and that you and your colleagues will do all you can to support your victimised rep. We must ensure that the clearest mandate for strike action and action short of strike is delivered when the ballot closes on Tuesday 24th August 2021.

As advised previously, every vote counts due to the restrictive anti union laws so it is vitally important everyone returns their ballot paper. If you, or you know of any colleague who hasn’t received their voting paper by now please contact us urgently on info@rmt.org.uk or via the National Helpline on 0800 376 3706 and a replacement will be sent out First Class.

I will keep members fully informed of any further developments.

EVERY VOTE COUNTS
VOTE “YES” FOR STRIKE ACTION
VOTE “YES” FOR INDUSTRIAL ACTION SHORT OF A STRIKE

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary